UK Expat sets up food van selling fish and chips on Japanese island

Japanese islanders are getting a taste of the UK – with fish’n’ chips and deep fried Snickers sold out of a van by an expat. Chef Samwell Galbraith, 28, moved to Japan two-and-a-half years ago after an illustrious career in the UK where he worked in top London restaurants and Glasgow institution Ubiquitous Chip, as well as working in New Zealand and Australia. Attracted to Japan because of the snowboarding, Samwell, from Aberfoyle, Stirling, only expected to stay for a couple of months, taking up a job at Niseko ski resort on the most northerly island, Hokkaido.

But he was offered another job in “paradise” island Ishigaki, Okinawa, near Taiwan, and met wife Kumi, 32. The couple married a year ago, and spent around GBP15,000 doing up a 1994 Toyota van, named Bonnie Blue, which has proved a massive hit with locals. The island is traditionally a tourist resort but has been deprived of international visitors due to covid.

Japanese islanders are getting a taste of the UK with fish and chips and deep-fried Snickers sold out of a van by an expat

Rather than serving deep-fried Mars Bars, Samwell said Snickers worked better so opted for that instead.

They also serve British-style fish and chips, which have proved a massive hit – only with salad rather than mushy peas, due to the hot weather. Samwell, who has worked as a chef for ten years, said: “It’s the best place I’ve ever been without doubt, it is an absolute paradise for us with incredible mountains, jungle, beaches, food, and wildlife. “I only planned to stay about three or four months to enjoy the snowboarding but I was offered a job at a restaurant within a beautiful small beachside hotel in the countryside and met Yumi in the first month I was here.

“We bought an old food truck, spent three months redesigning and fixing it to our specifications and then we opened Bonnie Blue. “We do UK-style fish and chips but with the freshest local fish straight off the boats brought to us by our friend who is a fisherman and also runs a sashimi shop opposite our apartment, it has been really popular.

“We have tweaked the traditional fish and chips to be a bit more island style with three smaller cuts of beer battered fish, a spoon of fresh crunchy coleslaw and pea shoots rather than mushy peas. “It’s tropical weather here so a bit of fresh salad is a must.

“We use local beer for the batter and season the chips with Nori seaweed salt, and we do deep fried Snickers. “We chose Snickers because it’s much better than a Mars Bar when fried as the peanuts and nougat hold it together better and give a much better texture when the chocolate and caramel has melted.” Hospitality restrictions are stricter in Japan than the UK with many restaurants option to remain closed.

No booze can be served and restaurants must close at 8pm.

UK Expat sets up food van selling fish and chips on Japanese islandSamwell Galbraith’s van

Samwell said: “We have been dependent solely on local customers as we started the truck up in the middle of a global pandemic. “Ishigaki has no foreign visitors and this has really affected people here as the main industries are hospitality and scuba and snorkel tours. “Restaurants cannot serve alcohol and need to be closed by 8pm and most have just closed totally until tourists can revisit.

“People have helped us so much with everything from the rules and regulations to where we can park our truck to open up.” He described the island as “the best place I’ve ever been without doubt” and said it is home now. But the football fan said he missed the madness of the Old Firm and the sound of Scottish accents.

Samwell added: “I miss the accents, the sense of humour, even the architecture and the madness of a certain football match in Glasgow of which none of my friends here could ever understand.”